tv Mary Gray Ghost Work CSPAN October 9, 2019 9:57pm-10:58pm EDT
up next on booktv mary gray gives us a behind the scenes look at the work force that drives large tech companies like amazon, google and her and the theoretical physicist offered his thoughts on quantum mechanics. >> welcome, everybody. thank you very much for coming. i'm delighted to see you all here. i'm a faculty member at the economic department and one of the cochairs of the task force that was commissioned by the president a year ago last spring and the purpose of the task force is to sort of engage and come front the sense that many have bee in the labor market technology is changing rapidly to understand why people are
anxious, to figure out how determined they shoul should bet is changing and what is different this time and what can we do to ensure that the coming era of change leads to not just productivity growth, but some degree of shared prosperity. and our focus is on the labor market on how we make the labor market function while for as many workers as possible, but that is where we see this as the opportunity and also the challenge. the lesson if you read the report from just last week one of the things we say is coming and i'm kind of critical on this with a well functioning labor market is the foundation for tha healthy middle class and the political system and without the foundation of opportunity and prosperity it is difficult for other things to work well. so our focus is on making the
work work and that is why it is such an honor to have mary here today from the indiana university research talking about her book and here is a photograph and here is the actual person. just to give you a tiny bit of background, the earlier work has been on the sort of communication and use of technology of young people and how they use technology and other means to establish identities and to identify one another and maintain anonymity. she was recruited by two microsoft researchers to work on projects and once the air, got interested in the question of how artificial intelligence was often kind of hidden inside of the machine and so you can see kind of a uniformity there and
i hope that comes up in q&a. how many of you have ever received a 1099 or done contract work? wonderful. how many of you have a friend that has used a ridesharing app? [laughter] so we all have a stake in the conversation arguably so what i want to talk about today is a definition that we came up with the term not to describe particular kinds of work but a set of mixed jobs to describe the reorganization of the dismantlement of full-time employment. if you want to think of the conditions that are created with the opacity around
workers contributions of on-demand wor work, so keep in mind you will never find the reference to ghost workers you'll find references to ghost work and that was quite intentional. 's of people use that term quite a bit. so what's the mechanism behind the work we are talking about? and what connects this type of fork to ride hailing absent other platforms you might be familiar with? by the early 2000's to realize they can take the mechanism to put out a call through the interface to execute a program
to make that executable so they created a mechanism around data labeling and other kinds of tasks that were piecework but we will suggest this is just the beginning. but if anybody has a task they want to demand or have help with that they could be put on a platform to broker the relationship. in the abstract this is what is going on with this mechanism. so are there any projects that can be sourced, scheduled, managed, shd build through the application interface but hold on to that and think how much world of work that could develop if you apply that mechanism to the
distribution of request for work and people being able to pick up the task. that's what i want to suggest when we think of the framing of the future of work. not automation even last year talking about the future of work like the second machine age and started thinking differently but to come to the floor with a framework so what is it? it is ghost work we need to stop it until it is built into everything that we do. and you are probably familiar with that category that we call the online or off-line platform services they are using that same mechanism with the interface to put out a request for somebody to pick up the food and deliver it and the platform participates in
that exchange by recording when the food is picked up and delivered to execute a payment that portion of the work is automated but the delivery but the value of somebody to deliver the food is the part of the equation we are not considering. more increasingly we are aware of that because we can see them but if i said content moderation nobody would know what i was talking about. so now you know that is a job the people do that is providing another service trading for artificial intelligence but they are performing an important service. we are focused on business startups with business services that are below the surface of anything you will
see as a consumer and that's the world of work i'm talking about today. it's the world of usability testing perhaps to some of you in the room, many of these tasks do drive artificial intelligence to structure and most of you know what i mean when i say that but increasingly the number of jobs to say it's actually quite hard to nail ai we will keep a person threaded into the service request tech space. if you go to a website in a little help window pops up it's a mixture of school so thinking about that world with
that point of reference there is continuity and then automation will come around. that might look like piecework with textiles to have manufacturing knock out a shirt but for quite some time over a decade's yes automation made it possible for piecework to go away for some textiles but in other cases the reality of the paradox of the last mile that if it's too sophisticated for the textile machinery to consume through automation than a person was kept around. also in federal contract labor
of the women who were made famous who could at the time be brought in to serve those computers that was a reference to the people and not the machines so when the demand for their services eventually disappear they could be let go. so there was less security but wasn't less valuable? so move forward for that work it was full time employment in off time - - often times they embodied those professions of white men of privilege who had a very specific role to play. anybody else was expendable. so to continue the lineage by
the sixties with the advancement of staffing and temp services i point you to the book on the temp economy quite literally brokered on the devaluing of women's labor as a resource now they are college-educated they made a great office girl but were also extendable so keeping that threat moving by the time you get to the eighties or two thousands with the off shoring of office service work it becomes harder to make the case people are doing something that could so easily be replaced is also being done by workers in the united states it's a question of labor arbitrage just as anyone that is in the location generating the request for work. i often lament the settlement
of the case against microsoft never resolve the question of what you do in a case of employment that is necessary for a period of time that is project driven if you need somebody with a specific expertise coding, coding, language, but you don't need them for more than 12 months or weeks or days. what ways do we have two value that worker? at the time we didn't have a category for that. so post 2000 in silicon valley so what happens effectively the.com bubble burst but at that moment that we resolved and settled without case law it left questionable what to do with people who are not
necessary to hold them for a career in what we came up in the settlement were a set of practices that treat contract labor through vendor management systems that often don't leave them with the protection beyond the contract of 12 months to say i'm employed in the benefits come with my employment. so think of the history we have drawn and it is an argument that in this case we see the setting in place from the beginning of the industrial era of laws around labor protection they assume the valuable work is the work that cannot be automated without much projection of one day could be a target of automation. so it's built for assembly lines and professions that were to be beyond the touch of
automation. that in the lives of temp staffing that has driven our economic activity globally as a growth of a service industr industry, that serves their request or needs more than to build something. and then the shift to information economy that involves a lot of people doing information service work yes it involves coding and other valuable skills with a great amount of training but think what it took to code a website in the two thousands if you had to hand code html now it's completely done with software forgot that time we paid quite a bit of money to build people's websites. my first work was 1099. keep that in mind as you think about what can be automated
, the creative work in the communication beyond automation that is the open question. what will constantly be on the horizon requiring human touch? so with that this is how we studied because as an anthropologist it's hard to figure out where to dig in. we chose for businesses as the case study to identify groups of workers to show the inside of their black box. how did they organize, what does it look like and the company and with artificial intelligence there are two
streams of work and in terms of framing, i hope you take a way to see this growing world of work is growing into different directions. one is the increasing need to structure and analyze data. so take the radiologist that is not just one and done. you can do a great job to get image recognition with radiology but it seems like it will get rid of the radiologist now you just expand the market for people using radiology especially if you create mechanisms outside of the urban centers where people have never been able to get access now you create a market where other diagnostics will require an amount of expertise by a medical professional.
it's not a doctor or a radiologist but a medical student or a new profession on the horizon. so that world of work to manage the information that we are collecting that will build artificial intelligence to take over the need for a human han hand, but then the second stream which is just as critical, human information services where we expect someone can answer my call 24/7 per gram of love it if none of us have that expectatio expectation. i would love to feel that but the reality is the number of small businesses want to offer a prompt with the medication and those kinds of cases they
are not full-time employment but project driven work. in the case of our study the two streams of work are analyzed companies with image tagging location verification we picked them because we thought they were easy to automate and it turns out they are not and that classification path is another example of that stream of work so we can remove human hands with moderation and that is a found one - - a fantastic boundary object it's hard to get rid of people from the task. why? because not anything that's an obvious black or white it's very difficult to automate. and if you have humans deliberating over hate speec
speech, we debate that it such a clear example of how do you classify of intimate exchange? content moderators are part of the solution to facilitate and identify what's going on in that moment. if you don't participate with social media there is that option. [laughter] so translation and captioning video. so this is a business this is a business serving other businesses with economic opportunities and activity. we chose the united states and india and you will notice some patterns in the workers based
in india there is less obvious pattern in the united states looking for anyone who wants to look at the specific analysis of the data sets we have barely scratched the surface of the patterns and then thousands of interviews i'm sorry surveys and hundreds of interviews over 19 months fieldwork and then when you were in their life you can see the rhythm of their routines and how they get in and out of these markets. so doing the fieldwork it was an effort to figure out how to look at the large-scale data they are producing to get that transactional data so we can see how many clients are requesting and how long they stick around. do they change what kind of request they have?
hopefully this gives you a taste of what's in the book but first like any open call or any environment to say there's no obligation there is no commitment but if you like to come in and do something, come on in. so now you and up with folks who are really in it who have a full time income stream they have identified as enough money to make the rest of their economic reality manageable because you have a percentage of people who will see value to say i will do this work then you have another good corpus as i will do this with a set amount of time, they have the reasons , but they are the deep backup
, the bench when those 10 percent walk away because their kids are sick, you as the end consumer will never know that 10 percent who was really good and efficient to execute ever walked out because the regulars are there effectively making themselves available to be on demand. lastly, this steals in the wake of the california case we have a long tail of people experimenting with the labor markets with that capability they bring to the table they they want to try debugging or coding or practice a language is this more economically viable than what i'm doing today? can i mix this into what else i am doing? makes any bureau labor statistics survey challenging.
if you asked somebody what is your first or second job? they don't have an easy answer they have a different mental model. and this distribution of participation is creating the emerging mental maps if you had people if you ask them what are you doing answer they work for silicon valley startup or entrepreneur they see themselves as a small business owner or self-employed as a freelancer they don't always understand the difference between the last two statements they are all on the same platform doing the exact same task. how do you survey this set for their work attitude? how do they have a different understanding of what they are doing? this is what we need to talk about it what are people after when they participate in these
labor markets? what need are they trying to meet? we found several different things but three kept coming up in all the survey work that we did watching the make decisions whether they stay it was to control their time. which meant they had other obligations or commitment commitments, control the projects they worked on to have some agency over what they were doing because they worked in environments and told to do and i was alienating and control their work environment. please somebody ask what it means to allow people to make choices about who they work with has the upside and the downside. but to see this is not a matter of flexibility. stopped talking about this environment is flexible. it's about control so that says to me there is the
dad is service work and that's to have more work opportunities in the formal sector and then she left that to be more manageable. so where do we go from here? there's a chapter on that in the book but looking at what we have to contend with because the downside of contract worker there is no anchor to the collective bargaining that has that linchpin to advancing workers rights so if anybody is wondering if the market will solve the wage situation the market never did it was always
intervention of society to say we want work to look like this and have these kinds of benefit benefits. we have not done that so to organize workers to help them shift the debate and recognize they will never be on a single site or a single employer of record as a unified professional identity if you don't see a common cause of the person next to you doing this work but this global network with the needs and not
one language or other context. do have that labor platform is not an individual but to be available to you if we open their ride hailing at then it was a competing company with five cars hovering so the value they all offer is their availability to you. the collective contribution to be available. we don't know how to value that arguably.
even with the california bill we don't have the laws governing the schools yet. so what would it take? not talking about a ecosystem or the environment and those that are and what it would look like to see the needs and prioritize those so they can be sustainably available because they don't just want to care about their need for scheduling or a wage war or healthcare. i will leave you with those two thoughts and with a waiver
internet. through the management of the process and then it walks you through what it feels like to be a set of scripts that are written by somebody making a request like a lot of bosses don't know what they want so when that request is made so for example on a platform it's being managed by the algorithms that is the most
distressing case to have the work account suspended. and once that account is effective we are locked out of the workplace i don't want to put this as a maniacal act but if we confirm the identity of someone that's not on-site you don't know how to issue the last paycheck. >> there is no person they are in contact with. >> think of the worst example of customer service you've ever gotten or are trapped in a phone tree with that is your
work. >> that is a big imposition if they have to leave their homes to work and you said you'd rather do the life around the work but i would rather have it wrapped her in my life why do i have to leave my house way with that whole notion that we have to commute somewhere every morning this is the way it is incompatible and hinders people from raising children. so is there the upside to blend the virtues of those different models? >> absolutely that we are more
optimistic than the cover of the book suggests. [laughter] that there is a lot of potential this is quite common in india a woman talked about doing this work and not have to sit with a two hour commute so as they move toward climate action what does that look like with work like this to have this municipality of people to work in their homes or in a setting near them that they support the wi-fi hotspot. >> and you talk about some of the ways people don't organize for purpose but that is
another feature that isn't obvious to people on the other side. >> and how much they were collaborating off-line. so you have a core group of people when they got serious turning this into an economic opportunity they needed to talk with other people so how do i optimize my time and you are the bad actors and how do i make sure there are other opportunities? there are pragmatic reasons
are independent contractors consultants compared to the bottom half that are selling hours and not a task but on the bottom half those from carmela and many of them say they were paid more their previous job and have more flexibility. and one even said they like the fact there was an algorithm doing their jobs rather than the people they have to kiss up to then a taxi service that was not fair to them. so you can see where it has turned out bad for people that the lack of bargaining power with those mechanisms.
>> and then to take away that has said the biggest problem that is part of it culturally there is something going on where we have placed expectations of what makes a good job. and we haven't been paying attention to the shift of the service economy and i think most people would agree would be services. so break that down what does that job look like and where we intervene to see that as a sustainable form of employment that leads to a middle-class experience or globally. >> so i will sharpen that. we do see that as part of the
way to help people make it less likely or harder to do contingency work or towards regular employment work. is that part of the solution? >> we can remain agnostic. if we have basics. the biggest challenge to be fixated on the opportunities of full-time employment. and i don't see any evidence that has happened globally. and then you don't see the expansion of formal employment with opportunity. so what is the expectation
what is that institutional agreement or social contract around anybody working? we are not starting from zero by legacies of labor arbitrage and colonialism. that i believe have gotten in the way of us thinking what is reboot? it doesn't matter what kind of job you do and if we have not gone to that place in the united states to see the economic benefit with those benefits to come from participating in economic life in the united states. so it doesn't matter that a company needs you 12 months or two weeks that won't hurt you
economically. how can i hold on to somebody for an extended period of time making it hard to do without them? and to constantly anticipate and change with consumer case. and then as we will cater for consumers. we are driven by consumer society how do we make that a benefit from those who are cashing in on selling the goods? >>. >> and beginning with the and
in platform work my sense is the social organization or episodic basis how can i get this done and where is that form to agency that is sustainable over time to engage over the economic conditions there is a lot of social organization that finds a way but we haven't found those arrangements to give agency to address those issues are the people who have the power to control those issues. do you see any room for optimism or development along
those line lines? >> called kindness of strangers is all about the long-term relationships people build with their discussion forum to text each other sit in skype channels together over years they send each other birthday gifts or send a laptop when it dies there is a deep connection beyond the social exchange of the moment or if this is a bad employer or not there is a deep connection that with the identity that people are building up fairly strong
walls so we are serious about this work and then to build the on ramp to help people engage in activities together not exactly protest and the biggest challenges organized labor has a very specific model and it has not updated what do you do with independent parties like antitrust those that are small businesses that are colluding that's not the right framework either so we haven't moved to a place that says make it legal and what are the ways
you can bring labor to the table to be that keeper of the keys of where that identity is held in the biggest challenges how to identify the person scamming me? to say i am with this organization the business wins and the worker wins because her privacy isn't invaded and then that is the next generation of workers. >> my question is related to this. like the social organization of these workers it has simple
outsourcing that is a huge problem so how do we value work? >> you have to be a real jerk to say i accomplished everything on my own and then to have a culture shift frankly if they ask for somebody's help. think of outsourcing the range of things i cannot manage myself. in what way does that mean they are helping me out? they're not that important so how do we recognize the value of somebody serving us?
and they know how to value the people serving us than those who take care of people's children and parents would not be paid as poorly as they are. but clearly this takes no skill so i would call attention to the market value the lack of support workers is not their value aggregated to serve others and making themselves available to us it doesn't have to be like that.
>> and really happy to see the book. so there was an interesting entry where we demand attention. if you could talk about that and purposely put the word for supply and demand and we need more training in economics how we treat labor talking about any other products sold so when someone can demand someone's attention so right
>> and phd student in mentioning textile workers offend my age who immigrated from laos to canada about ten years ago in a legally as part of this network and with three quarters of jobs and more of it is underreported so what about ghost work today? literacy your technology or what might actually cause the change? >> so after the question of continuity that this kind of work has not gone away. i have two answers.
difference i see in this work that it's a volume issue and this is the thing that makes me most nervous with the abusive people of the supply chain to make it even more difficult than somebody's sewing on a button. and that makes it very difficult to monitor what could be happening and then to know the supply chain of who is producing the shirt i am wearing where the food i eat. so my hope is for consumers
the security system that suggest out there but there are no solution so how do you move that culture are that country to that access? >> that is a great question. but it is always taking civil society and consumers and businesses and it's not a market problem but a fundamental social question hardly want to treat working people so imagine what would it take to make sure there was